Monday, 6 August 2012

Fearing Identity loss

Off late, I am getting a bit agitated when someone, including my wife, who takes up on people talking about 'Indian Culture'. This recent post of her's is a vent of the thought about 'Indian Culture'. I thoroughly disagree with her (for yet another time) albeit not completely.

Nope, I am not going to support that NUT, who said, wearing short dresses is a shame to Indian culture nor the person who asked 'what job did the girl from Guwahati had to do in the pub'. My questions are simple yet not trivial, complex yet not unanswerable.

1. What is Indian Culture?
2. Where do you find yourself in the Indian Culture?
3. If you say citing 'Indian Culture' is bull-something, is there anything equivalent?
4. What is your life style or the pattern of your lives?

To me Indian Culture is yet another chaotic thing as the Indian Language. Do you know that Hindi is not our national language as per constitution? The Constitution has given Hindi the status of the official language and not the national language. Hindi is an official language because majority of the population speak and understand (or atleast try and get there) Hindi. Since there are so many languages and many dialects with in each of the languages in India, arriving at a National language is akin to asking a lady to direct you to the right exit. I would compare the term 'Indian Culture' to something similar.

Indian Culture is something that you think IS YOUR culture and IS NOT everything you think is THE culture. So, according to me, if you can understand and project your Identity that is all the culture. Culture is not something we need to project when we go shopping or cinema or to a pub. Association towards your culture should be when there is a need to exhibit it. The need could be in the form of National presentations/representations, special occasions, days you wish to wear (mind you, wearing is just not dressing up :-)) your identity.

While I strongly support A, that the generation cannot be such lame in shaming India with the 'Indian Culture' tag, on the other hand I do have my questions. I cannot stop from thinking that the war against culture makes us forget our identity. Often identity/originality is lost, let go, trying to define ourselves as someone else.

I am an ordinary Tamil Brahmin (no horns, no strings other than my poonal), my fear goes a long way in losing my Brahmin identity. I do enjoy the chorus of 'We will, we will rock you!', like I knew it the moment the album was released ;-), I also enjoy the chorus of 'Chittam Chirugalea.. Inburuvar embaavaai' (that is Thiruppavai by Andal) like I knew it when Andal penned it or the way it ends as '..Vayyam Sumappadhu Vambu'.

People (including my wife) would call me a priest, a pazham or whatever, but this is my identity and you may give names you want to. They say 'You will feel the importance of something only when you see it going away or gone'. For me that is the very fear. Though it is inevitable that these things keep changing generation after generation, you should give it to me that I can take a slow killing poison than a head shot!

Now that we are going to have our baby, I want to provide (and not thrust) all those that pertains (with in my reach and practicality and known to me) to our identity, to my next generation. Ofcourse, TO BE OR NOT TO BE would the next generation's wish, but who are we to stop providing?

To cover up my answer for the Q4 above, I feel culture is your Identity, root, practise. To maintain it, is difficult; to ditch it, is on a drop of a hat; to ridicule it, makes you think learned; but once you have lost it and when you feel it is not there, it would be a huge vacuum.


Ramji said...

Very nicely writtenn. I have seen many people tend to shy away from true identity, wear mask on themselves feeling shameful to reveal. The root cause is people's ignorance on the values of our culture as none of us are aware of its purpose and the benefits. I feel like the generation gap between our parents and us have already left a HUGE vacuum. Instead of questioning the purpose of our culture, we tend to think its backward thought.

Yet, does all this discussion exist just for discussion’s sake or is it part and parcel of their natural resistance to change? Keeping what you have is a very strong Indian value and I have witnessed many battles on this subject fought and lost over the years.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written!!
I feel it is not just about the culture, it is about our identity.We seem to enjoy pretending to be somebody else just to please the world.I think we have started to feel that every thing about our culture is backward.We have with us only the remains of our culture and this has had a great impact on our thought process. We seem to justify by blaming the previous generation. But how many of us have really taken the efforts to understand the 'why' behind everything. Like you have mentioned, we would realize the importance of something only after it is gone. But by then it would be too late. Stick to what you believe and be sure of why you believe in it :)

Partha n Preethi said...

@Ramji, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts as well. I agree that the gap is widening. But I guess it is inevitable. We definitely can't match the things that our parents did and our next generation cannot be what we are now. That is evolution. Old things fade and new things start to shine. My concern is 'Can we kill something knowing that it is going to die anyways?' Certainly not, that's y I think it is our responsibility to carry our identity in whatever shape and size we could.

Your words are very true (unfortunately) "battles on this subject fought and lost over the years" they are lost because it is easy to ridicule one's identity than maintaining it.

Partha n Preethi said...

@Shruti - Thanks. I agree. Thats exactly my point too, Culture is all about identity. But seriously, people talking about dressing/drinking/talking/and-all-they-dont-do and relating that to culture is rubbish. Regarding the pretending part, I do understand the intentions, ultimately no one would want to be the odd person out. Go with the world seems to be the way (though for some it is bitter). I can only pity them, but it is worth only when they realize that something is lost in the due course.

RvK said...

Good Article and very thought provking.

Culture keeps evolving and is a well defined, hard and fast rule.

For example, during Ramayana time cultural was that a "Shudra" should not practice meditation - Lord Rama beheaded one who was practicing it.

But in Mahabharatha, you have a "Bramin" warrior and a "Shudra" warrior - it was seen acceptable then.

Folks who keep saying drinking / sexual display of affection are against culture, should remember that Kaamasutra was written in India, all our temples too have figurine in erotic poses.

I guess that if tolerance is present in way of people's thoughts then culture flurishes and grows - if it does not - you have one more Dec 06

Partha n Preethi said...

Thanks RvK and sorry for the late response.

Very well quoted anecdotes. Yep thats evolution. Unfortunately evolution in our days has become copying someone else's practice and there by throwing our own.

I guess the word tolerance would make the cultural practice a pain. The possibly alternative would be 'cherishing' what you have been doing rather than questioning them. Ofcourse, you dont have to be blind folded, but the questioning could be used for some more serious and social things than something domestic.